There is some life, but not much, at one bricks-and-mortar retailer. 

While same-store sales at Kohl's (KSS) - Get Report , like many of its department store peers, fell in its first quarter, the company managed a surprise earnings beat.

For the quarter ending April 29, Kohl's reported comparable sales fell 2.7 percent year-over-year. Earnings of 39 cents a share exceeded analysts' expectations of 29 cents a share, but total sales of $3.84 billion missed the consensus estimate of $3.9 billion.

On an analyst call Thursday, Kohl's management touted "relatively dramatic improvement" over the quarter, with March and April sales significantly outperforming February. Sales in February were down high single-digits, but by March and April they were down just 1 percent, CEO Kevin Mansell said.

Kohl's launch of Under Armour (UAA) - Get Report products also exceeded "very aggressive" expectations across all categories. Nike (NKE) - Get Report also grew high-single-digits in the quarter. Active apparel sales grew in the mid-teens, compared to mid-single-digits last year, Mansell added.

While Mansell touted improvements in digital sales, especially mobile, which is "the direction sales are going," he nonetheless reiterated Kohl's commitment to bricks-and-mortar locations. Kohl's plans to open four large stores in the fall, and as department store peers like Sears Holdings (SHLD) close locations, there's a "significant sales opportunity for us to capture [sales at] several hundred stores," which are "an important, critical component" of Kohl's success. Kohl's real estate strategy is not mall-based, Mansell emphasized. 

The company did not update its guidance for the 2017 fiscal year, but previously called for earnings of $3.50 to $3.80 a share, based on sales decreasing 1.3 to increasing 0.7 percent and comparable sales declining 2 percent to flat.

Kohl's shares dropped 2.1 percent to $39.49 in premarket trading Thursday.